Linebacker Ta Ta Thompson
With the season opener is upon us, it's a good time to review the football recruits signed for the Recruiting Class of 2003. At this point, we no longer have to guess who's going to qualify, who's going to go the JUCO route or even take a "greyshirt" season (late enrollment ala Johnny Jolly from the class of 2002).
Now that the season opener is upon us, it's a good time to review the football recruits signed for the Recruiting Class of 2003. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own and were developed from a variety of sources. This includes everything from viewing numerous video clips of each player to first hand observation of a number of them in action on the gridiron and 7-on-7 competition. Additional input has been gleaned from media reports, press releases from the athletic dept., discussions with friends and acquaintances and last but not least, internet discussion boards. I am not a program "insider", would not claim to be a recruiting "guru" and have no desire to set myself up as one. I just enjoy following the recruiting process and sharing my opinions with fellow Aggies.
At this point, we no longer have to guess who's going to qualify, who's going to go the JUCO route or even take a "greyshirt" season (late enrollment a la Johnny Jolly from the class of 2002). For Head Coach Dennis Franchione and staff, the only academic casualty in this signing class was Denton Ryan DB Charlie Jefferson who was relegated to the JUCO ranks as expected. In the opinions of many seasoned observers, Charlie was the DB recruit that was most likely to contribute as a true Fish. Look for the Aggies to work really hard to re-sign him in two years. All other signees were qualified early and most of them were on campus throughout the summer for voluntary workouts.
Other than Charlie Jefferson, all recruits were present and accounted for when the Aggies opened fall drills with the glaring exception of Joey Thomas. The "next Greg Porter" unfortunately suffered a separated shoulder while playing in the Texas High School Coaches Association all-star game in July. I understand as of last week that Joey has been cleared by the doctors to rejoin the team and has resumed lifting weights. He is reportedly "good to go" and should be ready to suit up and start workouts with the team in the next day or two. Joey has some "catching up" to do but expect the coaches to take a serious look at working him into the rotation at TE as
he was told earlier in the Summer to "get himself ready" to play this season. He will have some work to do in the weight room before he is ready to be a blocking force but his pass catching skills are first rate and he is an excellent runner having begun his HS career at Austin Westlake as a fullback.
Now let's look at the rest of the class by position starting with the Offense:
OL - Upon arriving in College Station, Coach Fran and staff made loading up on trench warriors a priority for this group on both sides of the ball. With the injury driven retirement of Andre Brooks and Jamie Hightower's health problems, a top rated group of offensive linemen could not have arrived at a better time. Cody Wallace has surprisingly worked himself into the #2 position at Strong Tackle and has taken some reps with the first team. Kirk Elder has likewise garnished praise from Coach Fran and has worked himself into the #2 slot at Strong Guard. These two will certainly see the field early and will be counted on to provide some quality depth up front. Barring
injury to those above them in the depth chart, C Chris Yoder and QT Corey Clark seem likely to redshirt this season. Jorrie Adams is a big question mark right now. As you know, he has been moved to tight end on at least a temporary basis. This is not a completely new position for Jorrie, he played TE for Jasper as a HS sophomore. Currently listed 4th at WTE on the depth chart he would also seem to be headed for a RS year. At 6-7 and 275 lbs. Jorrie needs a year in Netum Steed (not to mention the training table) to add quality bulk to his athletic frame before he will be ready to contribute on the OL.
Receivers - We've discussed Joey Thomas' situation already; the only other receiver signed in this group is Mission WR Earvin "Magic" Taylor. Six months ago I felt it would be hard for ET to break into the rotation this season at WR due to the unusual (for A&M) depth in the receiving corps. However, he has muscled up his formerly lean frame and is physically ready for the Big XII wars now at 6-3 and 217 lbs. After receiving good reviews during the summer workouts Earvin has worked himself into the two-deep at WR during fall camp and will see plenty of reps come game time.
Running backs - With the move of Bryce Reed to the DL and Keith Joseph picking up additional (part time) duties at "W" TE, Chris Alexander moves from "probable" to a virtual lock to see playing time at Fullback. Chris is an all-around player that is just as impressive blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield as running with it. With four players ahead of them on the depth chart at tailback, Derrick Brown and John Kelly are probably looking at RS seasons unless they end up helping out on special teams.
QB - after Drew Tate changed his commitment from A&M to Iowa, the Aggies did not sign a QB in this class. T.J Sanders joined the squad as a "preferred walk-on" but as a true Fish is unlikely to see any playing time behind Long, McNeal and Fr-RS Ty Branyon.
Now let's take a look at Carl Torbush's new recruits for the Defense:
DL - Just as important as the bumper crop of O-linemen signed in the Class of 2003, a strong group of incoming D-linemen was expected to provide quality depth this season. As has been well documented, we can expect to see a rotation of 8-10 DL on a regular basis as the new staff endeavors to keep fresh legs in the game at all times. Although not a Fish, DE Mike Montgomery is a newcomer to the team. He should be heavily involved in the rotation from the start after two years of polishing his skills at Navarro JC. He might look a bit lean sometimes at 6-5, 275 but he can use his long arms to keep blockers away from his body. The early reviews on the move of Bryce Reed to the DL from FB and the emergence of Ju Parks as a probable contributor suggest a RS season for one or two Fish that otherwise would have played this season. Jason Jack, Joseph "Red" Bryant and Chris Harrington were Internet message board favorites to get playing time this season but all are currently listed at 4th team. Barring injury to others ahead of them or a significant shuffling of the depth chart I would guess at least two of that group will redshirt.
LB - Justin Warren and Ta Ta Thompson look to be strong candidates to play early in the unit formerly known as the "Wrecking Crew" although Thompson will have to work hard to surpass Sr. walk-on Scott Stickane. Lamar Mitchell was pencilled in to backup Jared Morris at MLB by many Internet jockeys based on his play at the HS level. His move to the outside at SLB would seem to indicate a RS year for Lamar. 6-0, 220 lbs. is not a prototype MLB frame anyway. Let's see what he does after a year in Netum Steed.
DB - Depth in the secondary is perilously thin, especially considering the proliferation of spread type offenses in college football. It's likely that three players out of this signing group will be called upon to provide that depth, especially in nickel and dime package situations. Melvin Bullitt, Erik Mayes and Stephen Hodge are all listed at RCB but are probably the best bets to work into the mix in the secondary. Former HS QB's Broderick Newton and Japhus Brown probably need a year to get ready to play on Defense but
are such fabulous athletes they could be called upon to help out on special teams.
Specialists - No kicker or punter was signed in this class so we will have to wait a while to talk about those positions with regard to newcomers.